Sunday, April 20, 2008

In Your Backyard

From Stef '06 at the DEP:

This isn't the normal Backyard Newsletter, it's an article written by a Unity College student about bringing nature back to your yard, Enjoy!

...Over the last several years the idea of creating backyard habitat for wildlife has been spreading across the county. Many people wonder what they can possibly do to increase the health of their communities, bring wildlife back to their yard and fight larger than life problems like global warming. Wildlife require diversity in their habitats and when creating backyard habitat landowners should strive to meet the four basic needs of wildlife which include food, water, cover, and space. There exist many simple things that landowners can do to meet the requirements of wildlife and reduce the amount of energy and fuel it takes to heat and cool their homes throughout the year. First, plant many native trees and shrubs, but be sure to put them in the right location.

Evergreen trees not only provide essential shelter and food for overwintering wildlife, but if planted on homes' north-western side can dramatically reduce heating bills in the winter. On the southern side of homes, deciduous trees, which loose their leaves every year, will provide summer shade, but allow winter light to come through after only a few years. Acorn rich trees such as oaks make a great choice because they provide hard mast for wildlife in the fall and winter and can withstand high winds. Northern white cedar trees provide excellent winter cover for wildlife because of their dense foliage. It is also important to think not only horizontally, but vertically as well when creating backyard wildlife habitat. Different species inhabit the various levels from basement (soil) to canopy, and the more vertical diversity incorporated into the habitat, the more species of wildlife will be able to call your yard home. Non-living components are just as important as the plant components of a healthy backyard habitat. Things such as nest boxes, dead trees, perches, brush piles and rock piles, dust and grit, salt, and water all become essential building blocks of a backyard habitat.

Creating backyard habitat is one small step all landowners can take to not only bring wildlife back to their yards, but to create healthier communities, reduce global warming, and save money.

Want to learn more?

All residents of Maine are invited to become Habitat Stewards™ by attending the Habitat Stewards™ Program which is a volunteer effort of the National Wildlife Federation® and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. By enrolling in the Habitat Stewards™ Program you will learn and or participate in: "What wildlife need to live and how to improve their habitats; How to design a home landscape as wildlife habitat; Use of native Maine plants in the home landscape; Local field trips, and much, much more."

Further, with payment of the $75 (Scholarship assistance is available upon request) fee you will receive: "A handbook from the National Wildlife Federation® and educational materials from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension; Advice and training from conservation professionals, and ongoing support for you as a Habitat Steward, including continuing education on habitat topics."

Applications will be accepted from now until Aug. 15, and all classes are held at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Androscoggin-Sagadahoc Counties office in Lisbon Falls at 24 Main Street (or in the local area) on alternate Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the following dates: Sept. 13 and 27, Oct. 11 and 25, Nov. 8 and 22.

For more information on the Habitat Stewards™ Program please visit its Web site which is filled with free information and downloadable brochures:

If you have further questions and or would like to receive an application packet please call Nancy Coverstone, extension educator, toll free at 800-287-1458 or locally at 353-5550 or e-mail her at

Don't live in Maine? For a free 28-page colorful booklet published by the NRCS that applies to backyard conservation across the country just call 888-LANDCARE and they will mail you a copy.

Matthew Dedes is in the class of 2008 at Unity College

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